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Startups

Ad tech firm Moloco joins unicorn club via Series C round

By May 04, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Moloco CEO Ahn Ikk-jin
Moloco CEO Ahn Ikk-jin

Moloco Inc., a data-driven advertising solutions firm, has concluded its Series C funding round, rendering the company a newcomer to the unicorn club, or a startup with an enterprise value of over $1 billion, the company announced on May. 4.

In the latest funding round, Moloco secured $20 million from the Shinhan Smilegate Global Fund No. 1, a private equity fund set up by domestic venture capital firm Shinhan GIB and Smilegate Investment. 

This makes Moloco the first firm founded by a Korean to be named a unicorn among artificial intelligence startups based in Silicon Valley.

The company's total amount raised to date tops $50 million, according to investment banking industry sources. Key investors include Samsung Venture Investment, Krafton, SK Telecom, Shinhan GIB and Smilegate Investment.

Moloco was established in 2013 as an ad tech firm. The company's technology, which analyzes large batches of data, allows clients to generate profit via online ads which are customized based on consumer data.

For example, a consumer who previously bought or searched for earphones will see an ad on audio products, which may lead to purchases.

"There's none like Moloco in the mobile ad ecosystem. The company offers an effective and unrivaled data-driven advertising solution," said an official from Samsung Ventures.

Moloco's founder Ahn Ikk-jin is a former engineer from Google and Youtube. He received a bachelor's in computer engineering from Seoul National University and a master's in electronic engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. 

While doing his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego, Ahn stopped his studies to work at Google. He was one of the early members of Youtube who created the platform's AI-powered revenue model. After leaving Google, Ahn co-founded Moloco with two former Google colleagues.

Moloco has been expanding its operations recently. Its headquarters is based in Silicon Valley, but it has offices in South Korea, Singapore, Japan and UK that staff around 170 employees. Moving forward, the company plans to hire additional developers and expand its advertising arena to online e-commerce.

Ultimately, Moloco aims to make a trading debut on the Nasdaq.

Since 2018, Moloco has processed data from over 100 trillion cases. Recently, the company has been carrying out over 13 billion ads every month. Its core clients include Disney, Nexon and Netmarble.

In the last four years, the company has logged a strong 180% average annual growth rate. Based on Moloco's sales from the first quarter of this year, the company is expected to post $400 million in revenue this year -- more than double the revenue of around 200 billion won ($178 million) in 2020.

Around 50 percent of the company's revenue stems from Europe while the US accounts for around 25 percent.

Write to Joo-wan Kim and Chae-yeon Kim at kjwan@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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